Honduras’ army ousts President over disputed referendum

Posted on June 28, 2009

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manuel-zelaya

Ousted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya.

Trouble is brewing in the Central American nation of Honduras as it now appears that the Honduran army has arrested President Manuel Zelaya and kicked him out of the country. Zelaya has called it a coup and has urged other governments to not recognize any other government but his. Many have taken his advice, with the OAS and EU condemning the expulsion, along with Zelaya’s ally Hugo Chavez, who by the way blamed “the Yankee empire” for the coup attempt. OK, Hugo, whatever you say. President Obama, in what seems to be becoming a boilerplate response to any international crisis these days, is “deeply concerned” about the matter.

For all the talk about non-democratic principles coming out of Zelaya, however, it seems he’s guilty of a few himself. He’s limited to one four-year term, but he was pressing ahead with a referendum aimed at paving the way for letting him run again, a move that was deemed illegal by Honduras Supreme Court and opposed by its legislative body, the military, and most of Zelaya’s own party. Zelaya also fired military head Gen. Romeo Vasquez after the general refused to go along with organizing the referendum, and Zelaya has since defied a court order to reinstate Vasquez.

That doesn’t make the forcible removal of your President morally right, though, and law-abiding countries have to go through democratic channels for changes in government (although it seems President Zelaya already broke the law in pushing for this referendum). In any case, it’s all too muddy to get a clear bearing on who’s in the right here, but it will be interesting to see if President Obama condemns this uprising with more vigor than his belated “stern talking-to” regarding Iran’s quashing of democracy.

It’s worth keeping an eye on, particularly to see the continued response of Hugo Chavez. While a long shot, it might not be completely out of the realm of possibility to see Venezuela go into Honduras and reinstall Zelaya, a leftist ally of the Venezuelan President. I don’t think that’s a likely scenario at this point, but you never know.

Update: It’s becoming clear that opposition to Zelaya within Honduras was extremely widespread, as you can get a sample of from some of the comments here. What’s also becoming clear is that this isn’t a military coup by any means since the Honduras Supreme Court ordered the military to take action! (Heads up from Hot Air.)

What’s even more interesting is that the Obama administration had a feeling these events would transpire and had been working to keep Zelaya in power. How’s that for not being meddlesome, eh? We can’t support with mere words the democratic protesters in Iran, but we can actively seek to maintain an unpopular President in Honduras? The logic makes no sense whatsoever, and it’s yet another sign of the naivete of the President on foreign policy.

There’s a sense that Zelaya’s closeness with Chavez made it seem like the former Honduras President was a stooge for the Venezuelan one. It also looks like there’s some real fear of Chavez installing another perceived patsy, which the United States should strongly condemn. (How about working against that one, State Department?) In any case, just as in Iran, we need to show solidarity with the Honduran people, not with whatever outside group or domestic oligarchy tries to impose on them. Words alone will suffice, but I have my doubts they’ll be forthcoming.

Update: Things could get ugly in a hurry, as it now appears Hugo Chavez has put his troops on alert and threatened military action if a new government is sworn in. The idle thought I had this afternoon may be closer to reality than I had thought. America can’t simply watch Chavez invade another nation, but I have a bad feeling Central America is going to get very nasty very quickly. Here’s hoping it’s just more Chavez bluster.

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